‘We should welcome these people.’
Following Sunak’s desperate defence of his latest plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda during an emergency press conference, debate on this week’s Question Time was focused on the beleagured deportation deal.
Writer and journalist George Monbiot was part of the panel in the Conservative stronghold of Petersfield. Blasting a ‘government of sadists’ over its Rwanda deportation policy, Monbiot attacked the ailing plan for not trying to “solve anything,” arguing that instead the driving force was to “performatively beat up some of the most vulnerable and traumatised people on earth.”
In response, fellow panellist Johnny Mercer said the idea the policy was implemented “for votes is incorrect.”
“It’s done because we have too many people coming in,” said the Conservative minister.
During the heated discussion on the Rwanda policy and immigration, a young man in the audience managed to sum up in a sentence how many people feel about the way Britain should treat people coming to the UK to flee persecution.
He said: “I would like to ask a Conservative member of the Cabinet. Rather than blame these poor people that are coming over being exploited and threatened with deportation to what has been ruled as an unsafe country, why can’t we rather open up more legal safe routes and options for these people to flee persecution or any trouble they’re going through, to come to a safe country like the United Kingdom, we should welcome these people.”
The comment was met by an enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Responding to the question, Mercer, the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Moor View, argued that the Conservatives have some compassion by resettling people from war-torn countries.
“We’ve resettled 25,000 people from Afghanistan, and people are working incredibly hard every day to show the compassion that we need in this country, towards these people, that is not the same as open borders,” he said.
A young woman in the audience then asked the panel: “Previously you mentioned British values. How do you think that the Rwanda scheme complies with the tolerance that Britain is supposed to stand for?”
Later in the programme, another young member of the audience received applause when he stated: “Illegal migration makes up 5 percent of the total migration to the country, I think Rwanda is just used as a distraction from your failings.”
Some took to X to share their support of the youngsters’ comments.
“Well said, we should listen and engage more with young people, it’s their world,” someone posted.
The disproval towards the Rwanda policy and the government’s approach to immigration voiced at this week’s Question Time, correspond with the findings of a survey that the majority of British people hold positive views of immigration. The European Social Survey published in November, revealed how public attitudes towards immigration have undergone a total U-turn since 2016, becoming more favourable, despite the Tories’ attempt to whip up a moral panic over immigration.
Separate research published in February showed that the UK public have among the most positive attitudes to immigration in the world. Of 17 countries, the UK is least likely to say the government should place strict limits on the number of foreigners who can come to the country or prohibit people from coming altogether, the study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London found.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward